You were probably aware of the recent ‘Slut-Walks’ paraded around London and Manchester in a protest against the comments of a Canadian policeman who cited “dressing as sluts” as a reason women are raped and victimised.
There are obviously more important issues that these walks managed to raise, however, fashion is relevant to this argument. Fashion is liberating for women and the attempt to repress a women’s choice of appearance through guilt isn’t contemporary or forward thinking, nor is it right.
Many of the protesters promoted their message by wearing nothing but stockings, bras, basques and heels to argue anyone should be free to wear what they please without being made guilty. I believe that fashion can work to complement this. Revolutionary styles can promote freedom in female clothing and help remove society’s stigmas toward women’s appearance.
Just take a look at the 1960’s mini skirt, adopted by many women at the time of second wave feminism, rise of women in further education and the use of the contraceptive pill. The mini skirt wasn’t a woman wishing to advertise herself, rather it was a symbol of taking control of her own body and promoting her rights to display her body as she wishes, not as society dictates.
Another rebellion against oppression of women and men’s sexuality came in the seventies with Malcolm McLaren and Vivien Westwood’s store, SEX. Westwood designed provocative and revealing styles which soon became termed ‘punk,’ alongside real bondage wear sold for stage-wear. The styles, while sexual, weren’t designed to be seductive rather to shock and represent rebellion.
This century’s pioneer of such a style is definitely Lady Gaga. Yes, her styles are frequently over the top and often mocked. But what her shocking and sexualised style promotes is acceptance of your own body and the confidence to reveal it. Gaga herself has commented on how the suppression of her style wasn’t right for her; “I used to get made fun of for being either too provocative or too eccentric, so I started to tone it down. I didn’t fit in, and I felt like a freak”.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not suggesting you make your own hot-pants out of a pork chop in order to liberate yourself. What I am arguing is that any outfit deemed sexually provocative isn’t worn by a woman to advertise herself sexually, it is worn to liberate, to make a statement, to take control.
Take a look at some of Antonio Berardi’s underwear as outerwear pieces for his Spring 2010 collection which have remained in style through to this year. Here underwear is constructed as part of the outfit, it enhances the feminine shape. Berardi manages to take the image of the female form and underwear away from pornography and give it to the world of art and fashion.
Modesty in fashion is always considered truly chic, however, it is the daring, the revealing and the sexuality provocative outfits which are revolutionary and liberating. In a society where more and more women are becoming overly self-conscious, it is always a relief to see a woman confident enough to wear daring clothes. What is not needed is to repress women from such a freedom and make them feel guilty for their own appearance.
Image courtesy of nowmagazine.co.uk